Sick Leave Accruals May Vary Based on Hours Worked

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SavageE_eleakis204358-017Will all employees earn three days or 24 hours of paid sick leave each year no matter how many or how few hours they work?

Under California’s “Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act of 2014” there are several methods available for employers to choose from when establishing sick leave policies, and one of them may result in some employees actually earning less than three days or 24 hours.

The Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act of 2014 allows employees to either earn their sick leave over the course of each year under one of several accrual methods, or to receive their sick leave as a lump sum. The employer chooses the method, and is permitted to choose different methods for different groups of employees.

Accrual Method

If an employer chooses to offer sick leave on an accrual basis, some employees may earn less than three days or 24 hours per year without any violation of the sick leave law.

Specifically, under the accrual method where employees earn one hour of sick leave for every 30 hours that they work, an employee who works less than 720 hours throughout the course of a year will not accrue a full 24 hours of sick leave.

For example, an employee who works one eight-hour day per week would work 416 hours each year, and based on the one hour for every 30 hours worked method would accrue a little less than 14 hours of paid sick leave. Even though the employee will earn less than 24 hours of sick leave, an employer using this method is not in violation of the law.

Lump Sum Method

If an employer chooses to offer sick leave as a lump sum, meaning employees receive three days or 24 hours up front at the beginning of employment and each year after that, then every employee must receive the full amount no matter how many or few hours they work per year.

No proration of sick leave hours is permitted for part-time employees if an employer chooses to use the lump sum method, so every employee would in fact have 24 hours or three days to use each year.

Using the example above, an employee who only works one eight-hour day per week would be entitled to the full 24 hours under the lump sum method.

Note that the other accrual methods permitted under the law will always result in a minimum of 24 hours or three days of accrual per year. It is only the one hour for every 30-hour method that may result in a lower annual accrual.


The Labor Law Helpline is a service to California Chamber of Commerce preferred and executive members. For expert explanations of labor laws and Cal/OSHA regulations, not legal counsel for specific situations, call (800) 348-2262 or submit your question at www.hrcalifornia.com.

Staff contact: Ellen Savage

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Ellen Savage
About Ellen Savage
Ellen Savage joined the CalChamber in 1990 and currently serves as an HR adviser. She has been assisting employers on the Helpline for almost 15 years. She was the editor of eight editions of the California Labor Law Digest and author of the CalChamber's California Hiring to Termination Guide. Her experience also includes practicing at a large Sacramento law firm and presenting at dozens of employment law seminars statewide. She holds a J.D. from Lincoln Law School.